reason awake 1 catastrophes may fail to change public indifference to biospheric damage n.
Download
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
REASON AWAKE: 1 CATASTROPHES MAY FAIL TO CHANGE PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE TO BIOSPHERIC DAMAGE PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
REASON AWAKE: 1 CATASTROPHES MAY FAIL TO CHANGE PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE TO BIOSPHERIC DAMAGE

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 18

REASON AWAKE: 1 CATASTROPHES MAY FAIL TO CHANGE PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE TO BIOSPHERIC DAMAGE - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • 88 Views
  • Uploaded on

REASON AWAKE: 1 CATASTROPHES MAY FAIL TO CHANGE PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE TO BIOSPHERIC DAMAGE. John Cairns, Jr. University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus Department of Biological Sciences Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

loader
I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
capcha
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'REASON AWAKE: 1 CATASTROPHES MAY FAIL TO CHANGE PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE TO BIOSPHERIC DAMAGE' - geordi


An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
reason awake 1 catastrophes may fail to change public indifference to biospheric damage
REASON AWAKE:1 CATASTROPHES MAY FAIL TO CHANGE PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE TO BIOSPHERIC DAMAGE

John Cairns, Jr.

University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus

Department of Biological Sciences

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, U.S.A.

June 2012

1Rene Jules Dubos wrote Reason Awake in 1970, and I think that echoing his call is appropriate in 2012.

reason sensible or logical thought or view
REASON – SENSIBLE OR LOGICAL THOUGHT OR VIEW
  • WISDOM – THE QUALITY OF BEING WISE; KNOWLEDGE, AND THE CAPACITY TO MAKE DUE USE OF IT
  • KNOWLEDGE – THE FACT OR CONDITION OF KNOWING SOMETHING WITH FAMILIARITY GAINED THROUGH EXPERIENCE OR ASSOCIATION
  • JUDGMENT – THE PROCESS OF FORMING AN OPINION OR EVALUATION BY DISCERNING AND COMPARING
  • “A NATION’S TREASURE IS IN ITS SCHOLARS.” Chinese Proverb
slide3

“OURS IS ALLEGEDLY A SCIENCE-BASED CULTURE. FOR DECADES, OUR BEST SCIENCE HAS SUGGESTED THAT STAYING ON OUR PRESENT GROWTH-BASED PATH TO GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT IMPLIES CATSTROPHE FOR BILLIONS OF PEOPLE AND UNDERMINES THE POSSIBILITY OF MAINTAINING A COMPLEX GLOBAL CIVILIZATION. YET THERE IS SCANT EVIDENCE THAT NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS, THE UNITED NATIONS, OR OTHER OFFICIAL INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS HAVE BEGUN SERIOUSLY TO CONTEMPLATE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR HUMANITY OF THE SCIENTISTS’ WARNINGS, LET ALONE ARTICULATE THE KIND OF POLICY RESPONSES THE SCIENCE EVOKES.”1

slide4

“THE CURRENT COEVOLUTIONARY PATHWAY OF THE HUMAN ENTERPRISE THEREFORE PUTS CIVILIZATION AT RISK – BOTH DEFECTIVE GENES AND MALICIOUS ‘MEMES’ CAN BE ‘SELECTED OUT’ BY A CHANGING PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT. TO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABILITY, THE WORLD COMMUNITY MUST WRITE A NEW CULTURAL NARRATIVE THAT IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR LIVING ON A FINITE PLANET, A NARRATIVE THAT OVERRIDES HUMANITY’S OUTDATED EXPANSIONIST TENDENCIES.”1

Coevolving with the Biosphere requires an understanding of and willingness to abide by the universal laws of biology, chemistry, and physics.

Only science can reveal the workings of these universal laws.

The war on science will impede investigation of the universal laws.

slide5
THE NINE INTERACTIVE GLOBAL CRISES THAT THREATEN THE BIOSPHERE HAVE ALL WORSENED, SO THE PROBABILITY OF CATASTROPHES HAS INCREASED.2,3

I am assuming that human thought processes have worsened because, in the United States, polls show increased skepticism about global climate change science.

Since the crises are interactive, the probability is that the catastrophes will not happen one at a time but rather will occur as multiple crises.

Recent catastrophes have not changed “business as usual” enough to diminish any of the global interactive crises.

slide6

HUMANKIND HAS NOT DEVELOPED ABILITIES OR MENTAL PROCESSES TO RESPOND TO OR EVEN IDENTIFY LONG-TERM PROBLEMS UNTIL RECENTLY. HUMANITY IS NOT PREPARED FOR PROBLEMS THAT ARE DISTANT IN TIME AND SPACE (E.G., FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE FOR MOST OF THE WORLD). SOCIAL EVOLUTION COULD PREPARE HUMANKIND TO RESPOND EFFECTIVELY TO GLOBAL CRISES BUT HAS NOT YET DONE SO.

  • For example, “Humanity is now the dominant force driving changes of Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus future climate.”4
  • Rene Jules Dubos5 evaluated the consequences of the application of scientific evidence to all aspects of the human condition. The use of reason and scientific evidence has come under attack in the 21st century and the latter part of the 20th century.
slide7
HUMANITY’S ABILITY TO COPE WITH LONG-RANGE PROBLEMS IS UNDERMINED BY THE INCREASING PERVASIVENESS OF INDIVIDUALISM.

“. . . the ethic of individualism elevates self-fulfillment over social obligations.”6

Excessive individualism not only undermines relationship stability, but also weakens the social contract upon which civilization is based.7

slide8
EVEN PEOPLE WHO ACCEPT THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE HAVE RESISTED MAKING PERSONAL LIFESYTLE CHANGES.

One of the possible explanations for this resistance is the “When on the Titanic, you might as well go first class” viewpoint.

Another possible explanation is the failure to grasp how rapidly irreversible change can occur.

Denying scientific evidence in the absence of contrary evidence is an outright rejection of reason.

slide9

“BIOLOGIST RACHEL CARSON FIRST CALLED OUR ATTENTION TO THESE MANIFOLD DANGERS [HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS] A HALF CENTURY AGO IN HER 1962 BOOK, SILENT SPRING. IN IT, SHE POSITED THAT ‘FUTURE GENERATIONS ARE UNLIKELY TO CONDONE OUR LACK OF PRUDENT CONCERN FOR THE INTEGRITY OF THE NATURAL WORLD THAT SUPPORTS ALL LIFE.’”8

“Recent studies indicate the U.S. and world could rely 100 percent on green sources within 20 years if we dedicate ourselves to that course.”9

slide10
THE TWO PRIMARY BATTLES IN THE WAR ON SCIENCE ARE CLIMATE CHANGE AND EVOLUTION. WHY IS THIS CONFLICT HAPPENING?

All living species in the present Biosphere, including Homo sapiens, are products of the same evolutionary selective forces.

Humanity’s technological progress, a result of scientific research, has resulted in the illusion that the universal laws do not apply to Homo sapiens.

The consequence is an unsustainable lifestyle that, if continued, will result in catastrophes caused by resource scarcity as a result of exceeding the Biosphere’s regenerative capacity.

The cultural meme responsible for this crisis is economic growth exacerbated by population growth.

slide11

“ANY SCIENTIST VENTURING INTO THE PUBLIC REALM, NO MATTER HOW RESPECTED BY HIS OR HER PEERS, IS TREATED LIKE AN INTELLECTUAL VARMINT BY POLITICIANS, SPECIAL INTERESTS, AND ARM-CHAIR CRITICS, WHO IMMEDIATELY OPEN UP WITH A VOLLEY OF PREFABRICATED REBUTTALS AND PERSONAL ATTACKS.”10

  • This period in history is not a good era for reason, reasonableness, or scientific evidence.
  • “We live in an Era of Willful Ignorance. It is not only acceptable; it is fashionable to throw scientific caution to the wind.”10
slide12

“CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS SERIOUSLY IMPEDED THE DEVELOPMENT OF RATIONAL POLICIES TO DEAL WITH WHAT THE BEST SCIENCE TELLS US IS HAPPENING WITH OUR CLIMATE, A DISTORTION THAT MAY PROVE TO HAVE FATAL CONSEQUENCES.”11

  • “This antiqueness is a sure sign that denier arguments are based on attitude, not data. Deniers all display what can only be called willful ignorance.”11
  • “Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman has described the denier’s behavior in the debate leading up to the passage by the U.S. Congress of the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. . . ”:11 “If you watched the debate . . . you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it – and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.”12
how can humanity cope with nine interactive global crises without science reason and wisdom
HOW CAN HUMANITY COPE WITH NINE INTERACTIVE GLOBAL CRISES WITHOUT SCIENCE, REASON, AND WISDOM?
  • As the human population grows and resources per capita decline, how can the “common good” be determined without the evidence and knowledge generated by science?
  • The development of new antibiotics to control “superbugs” that are evolving in developing countries, such as India, is necessary but not a fix where “Poor hygiene has spread resistant germs into India’s drains, sewers and drinking water, putting millions at risk of drug-defying infections.”13 Science and reason are essential to reduce risks in such circumstances.
  • How can humanity cope with long-term nuclear catastrophes, such as the Fukushima Daiichi power plant,14 without science, reason, and wisdom?
slide14

IN THE ERA OF RAPID CLIMATE CHANGE JUST BEGINNING, HOW WILL HUMANKIND FARE WITHOUT THE EVIDENCE AND INFORMATION PROVIDED BY MODERN SCIENCE?

  • For example, “If climate change continues on its course, the number of heat-related deaths will rise . . .”15
  • “In a stark call for renewable energy . . . IEA boss Maria van der Hoeven wrote in The Guardian newspaper that the world is on track to warm by 6 degrees C by the end of the century, when it needs to rein in the increase to 2 degrees C.”16
  • A 2 degree C increase is the line between dangerous and very dangerous.17
  • Even staying at or below a 2 degree increase leaves a population/resource problem.
exponential human population growth is suicidal on a finite planet with finite resources
EXPONENTIAL HUMAN POPULATION GROWTH IS SUICIDAL ON A FINITE PLANET WITH FINITE RESOURCES.
  • Population analyst Paul Ehrlich states: “The optimum population on Earth — enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone — was 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050. . . .”18
  • It is difficult to impossible for most women living in misery to obtain Depo-Provera a birth control method that needs only be taken 4 times per year.19
  • “. . . 100,000 women annually die in childbirth after unintended pregnancies. Six hundred thousand babies born to women who didn’t want to be pregnant die in the first month of life.”19
  • These tragedies are just a few that result from suppression of science and reason, and the number will increase as the planet becomes more crowded and unpredictable.
  • At the global level, “World population needs to be stabilised quickly and high consumption in rich countries rapidly reduced to avoid ‘a downward spiral of economic and environmental ills’. . .”20
slide16
“THERE GO THE PEOPLE, AND I MUST FOLLOW, FOR I AM THEIR LEADER.”Benjamin Disraeli, England’s Prime Minister10
  • Humanity is united by a desire for a quality life for its children, grandchildren, and their descendants.
  • Beyond the basics of food, shelter, and clothing, a quality life (i.e., satisfaction with one’s circumstances) is not determined by material goods but rather by leisure time, educations, social interactions, and the like.
  • On a finite planet with a finite Biosphere, limits exist to renewable resources regeneration upon which the human economy depends.
  • Learning to live within limits is the first requirement toward a quality life.
  • Nurturing the Biosphere for optimal regeneration of renewable resources is the second requirement.
  • An equitable sharing of resources to avoid civil unrest and resource wars is the third requirement.
slide17

Acknowledgments. I am indebted to Darla Donald for transcribing the handwritten draft and for editorial assistance in preparation for publication and to Paul Ehrlich and Paula Kullberg for calling useful references to my attention.

References

1 Rees, W. 2010. What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature cognition and denial. Sustainability: Science and Policy 6(2):1-13.

2 Cairns, J., Jr. 2010. Threats to the Biosphere: eight interactive global crises. Journal of Cosmology 8:1906-1915.

3 Cairns, J., Jr. 2012. The ninth threat to the biosphere: human thought processes. Supercourse Legacy Lecture: National Academy of Sciences Members’ Lectures. http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/lecture/lec46811/index.htm.

4 Hansen, J., P. Kharecja, M. Sato, F. Ackerman, P. J. Hearty, O. Hoegh-Guldber, S-L Hsu, F. Krueger, C. Parmesan, S. Rahmstorf, J. Rockstrom, E. J. Rohling, J. Sachs, P. Smith, K. Steffen, L. Van Susteren, K. von Schuckmann, J. C. Zachos. 2012. Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature. Cornell University Library http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.1365.

5 Dubos, R. J. 1970. Reason Awake: Science for Man. Columbia University Press, New York, NY.

6 Bartkowski, J. P. and X. Xu. 2010. Refashioning family in the Twentieth-first century: marriage and cohabitation among America’s young adults. The Changing Spirituality of Emerging Adults Project. Life Cycle Institute, Catholic University of America http://www.changingsea.net/essays/Bartkowski.pdf.

7 Goodman, A. and E. Greaves. 2010. Cohabitation, marriage and relationship stability. Institute of Fiscal Studies, Briefing Note BN107. Economic & Social Research Council, UK.

8 Steingraber, S. 2011. Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crises. DaCapo Press, Perseus Books Group, Philadelphia, PA.

9 Jacobson, M. Z. and M. A. Delucchi. 2009. A path to sustainable energy by 2030. Scientific American 301:58-65.

10Walker, R. 2012. When scientists speak, who listens? Huffington Post 8May http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-walker/when-scientists-speak-who_b_1471423.html.

slide18

11 Schwartz, S. A. 2010. The denier movements critique evolution, climate change, and nonlocal consciousness. Explore 6(3)133-138. 12Krugman, P. 2009. Betraying the planet. New York Times 28June http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/opinion/29krugman.html.13 Gale, J. and A. Narayan. 2012. Drug-defying germs from India speed post-antibiotic era. Bloomberg Markets Magazine 7May http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-07/drug-defying-germs-from-india-speed-post-antibiotic-era.html. 14 Jacobson, B. 2012. The worst yet to come? Why nuclear experts are calling Fukushima a ticking time-bomb. AlterNet 5May http://www.alternet.org/health/155283/the_worst_yet_to_come_why_nuclear_experts_are_calling_fu kushima_a_ticking_time-bomb?page=entire.15 Neale, T. 2012. Global warming: more killer heat waves? MedPage Today 23May http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/EnvironmentalHealth/32887. 16 Halper, M. 2012. Doomsday warning from IEA boss. Smart Planet 28Apr http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/doomsday-warning-from-iea-boss/15367.17 Anderson, K. and A. Bows. 2011. Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world. Transactions of the Royal Society 369(1934):20-44.18 Vidal, J. 2012. Cut world population and redistribute resources, expert urges. The Guardian 26Apr http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/26/world-population-resources-paul-ehrlich.19 Goldberg, M. 2012. Melinda Gates’ new crusade: investing billions in women’s health. The Daily Beast 7May http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/06/melinda-gates-new-crusade-investing-billions-in-women-s-health.html.20 Vidal, J. 2012. World needs to stabilise population and cut consumption, says Royal Society. The Guardian 25Apr http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/26/earth-population-consumption-disasters.